Trial set for June 29 for suspect in killing of Virginia student Hannah Graham

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 18, 2015 1:37 PM

By Gary Robertson

RICHMOND, Va. (Reuters) - The man accused of murdering University of Virginia student Hannah Graham will go on trial starting on June 29 in Charlottesville, officials said on Wednesday.

The trial of Jesse Matthew Jr., a 33-year-old Charlottesville hospital worker, is scheduled to last three weeks, an Albemarle County Circuit Court spokesperson said.

"I won't know whether the trial will actually go forward on June 29 or whether the defense will ask for a continuance," Albemarle County prosecutor Denise Lunsford told reporters after a preliminary hearing on Wednesday.

Matthew was indicted this month on charges of first-degree murder and abduction with intent to defile. He was the last person seen with Graham, an 18-year-old sophomore who went missing in September.

Graham's disappearance shocked the campus in central Virginia and drew national headlines. Her body was found in October on an abandoned property outside Charlottesville.

Matthew was returned to jail in Fairfax, Virginia, after appearing before Circuit Court Judge Cheryl Higgins in Charlottesville. He is charged in Fairfax with a 2005 rape and that trial is set to begin on June 8.

Matthew has been forensically linked to the death of Virginia Tech University student Morgan Harrington, who disappeared in October 2009, police have said. Her body was discovered in 2010. No charges have been filed in that case.

The abduction and first-degree murder charges in the Graham case each carry a maximum penalty of life in prison. Matthew also faces reckless driving charges after he sped away from police in September.

Matthew was the main suspect in a 2002 campus rape investigation while attending Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. No charges were filed.

He attended Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia, in 2003. A football player, Matthew left the team shortly after a report of an on-campus sexual assault, the university has said.

(Reporting by Gary Robertson; Writing by Ian Simpson; Editing by Eric Beech)